April Fools’ Day Lebanese Style

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Filed under: Political Pranks

‘The joke’s on us:’ Lebanese respond to April Fools reports of elected president
by Kenneth Changpertitum
Special to The Daily Star
April 2, 2008

20084122353003-aprilfools-200.jpgBeirut: Lebanese newspapers on Tuesday offered their readers a brief moment of wishful thinking with an April Fools message that the protracted political crisis was over and a new president had been elected. “Khalass, infarajet” (That’s it, it’s over) said a leaflet inserted in many dailies, jokingly referring to the long-running standoff between the government and the opposition.

To get an understanding of how this years April Fools prank resonated with Lebanese, The Daily Star inquired of local residents in the Gemmayzeh area about its significance in relation to the crisis in particular, and their views toward the honesty of Lebanese politics in general.

Though opinions ranged from half-hearted support toward a certain politician or party, most Lebanese spoken to held outright hostility toward anyone involved in Lebanese policy making, foreign or domestic.

All those questioned expressed alienation with the current political process.

“They’ve been saying we were going to get a president for three months, and Lebanon is without a president since November,” said Elie Baroudi, 17.

“We’ve had these problems for thirty years,” his friend Samer Jamal, 16, added. “It won’t change.”

“It’s a very big joke for Lebanon to pick a president; every day is April Fools for Lebanese politicians,” said Edward Dfouny, 37, a store owner.

Some locals expressed frustration and impatience at attempted humor by Lebanese media, who bombarded the Lebanese with leaflets and news reports on Monday pretending that a president was elected.

“People are having fun but it’s a tiny detail of a problem,” said Oliver 21, who saw the joke as a microcosm of a widespread mentality “I don’t have time to play jokes. I have to work. The whole country is a joke. Look around, everything is chaotic.”

Youmna Fawaz, from the group Khalass (Enough), which published the leaflet, said its aim was to show how ridiculous Lebanon’s political situation had become.

“We’re at a point where the election of a president – a normal event in any country – has become a dream,” she told AFP. “The Lebanese now need a lie to give them hope.”

The country has been without a president for four months, after Emile Lahoud stepped down at the end of his mandate at midnight November 23.

Seventeen attempts to elect a successor have failed and a new session of Parliament is now scheduled for April 22. Lebanese presidents are elected by MPs rather than by popular vote.

Still, with all the sectarian division among the country’s leaders, some placed the blame squarely on the shoulders of ordinary people “The joke’s on us. The politicians always lie and people like fools follow them,” Elie Shami, 21 said. – With AFP